Agashiye’s Winter Squash Soup

Guests eat fabulously well at the top-rated, vegetarian, roof-top restaurant Agashiye (agashi is Gujarati for terrace) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The restaurant is part of the charming heritage hotel, House of MG. What really hits the spot on a cold, winter night is the steaming, delicate broth of a local pumpkin called koda. The spices are just barely there. The broth was served as an accompaniment to appetizers.

Indian food is often associated with strong, bold flavors, and generous amounts of fat. However, there are many dishes that are light, subtle, and delicately flavored. There is a tremendous range of Indian vegetarian food and many chefs across India are creating sophisticated, elegant dishes, both traditional and contemporary. Agashiye serves an elegant prix fixe thali (all you can eat) of traditional foods as well new and creative uses of local ingredients. The service is superb. Over 70 percent of Gujarat’s population is vegetarian. Vegetarians and vegans will find this to be a pleasant situation!

The creative Agashiye chef, Rajubhai Prajapati, a modest man, has generously shared his recipe for koda no soup. We have recreated our version of that delicious, comforting broth with ingredients available in local US grocery stores. Nutmeg and ginger are our own additions as they go so beautifully with butternut squash.

Our readers in India will be able to find koda. Another vegetable that will work very well is a Chinese squash called dudhi. It is a pale green, smooth-skinned vegetable shaped like a small, plump, baseball bat. The flavor is similar to zucchini/courgette. Dudhi often has a hint of underlying bitterness which is countered by a little sugar, added to taste.

To make the dish vegan, use a neutral oil or Earth Balance.

The broth stays well in the fridge for 2-3 days. It can be relished on a cold day as a substitute for tea or coffee.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz peeled butternut squash roughly cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (use finely ground white pepper, if you have it)

For tempering:

  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 two-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of corn starch

Steps

  1. In a large, heavy bottomed 4 quart pot, cook the butternut squash in ½ cup of water. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. This will take about 10-12 minutes on medium heat with the pot covered. The squash should be very soft. Add a little more water if needed.
  2. Puree the squash so that it is really smooth and then whisk in 3 ½ cups of water. Add the salt and pepper and bring the golden broth to a simmer.
  3. Heat the butter or ghee in a large, heavy ladle or a small saucepan (1 or 2 cup saucepan). The chef used a good amount of ghee which tasted wonderful. We use a moderate amount of butter. Add all the spices and toast gently for about a minute making sure the butter does not burn.
  4. Then add the corn flour and continue cooking the mixture for another 30 seconds. The corn starch will brown gently but it will be hard to see beneath the brown spices.
  5. Pour the butter, spice, corn flour mixture into the simmering broth. Let it simmer gently for another 5-7 minutes till all the flavors have blended and steeped into the broth. Taste and adjust seasoning and spices, if necessary, and serve hot in a cup.

Serves 6-8. Preparation and cooking time: 20-30 minutes.

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